Panthers No. 7 Ryan Hunter skates the puck past Andrew White of the Saanich Braves. The Braves lead the Panthers 3-2 in the VIJHL semifinal series.

Panthers No. 7 Ryan Hunter skates the puck past Andrew White of the Saanich Braves. The Braves lead the Panthers 3-2 in the VIJHL semifinal series.

A tale of two Saaniches: Braves one win away from VIJHL final

Four point game by Sam McMullen propels Saanich Braves defeat Peninsula Panthers 5-4 on Monday to take 3-1 series lead in VIJHL semifinal

The Saanich Braves are one win away from the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League finals after defeating the Peninsula Panthers 5-4 at Panorama Recreation Centre on Monday.

The Braves now lead the best-of-seven semifinal series 3-1 and can eliminate the Panthers in Game 5, with a late 8:30 p.m. start Wednesday at Pearkes arena.

Discipline was key for the Braves, who took just four penalties, while Sam McMullen scored two power play goals and added two even-strength assists for a four-point night to lead the Braves.

Panthers netminder Stephen Heslop was the sharper of the two goalies, stopping 39 of 44 shots, while Tanner McGaw stopped 21 of 25 shots for his league leading sixth win of the playoffs.

The game was bookended with goals by Panthers sniper David Stephens. The ex-Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) forward opened the scoring with a power play goal early in the first period.

Down 1-0, the Braves took the first period lead on goals by Sam McMullen (power play) and Andrew White. One-time Braves captain Trevor Yee tied it up for the Panthers in the second, but Sheldon Trees scored with 26 seconds left in the period to restore the Braves lead 3-2.

The Braves jumped to a 5-2 lead with goals from Connor Krupa and another power play goal by McMullen, who also assisted on Krupa’s goal and White’s goal.

The Panthers mustered 10 third-period shots and two of them got by McGaw, first from Cole Glover with six minutes left. Stephens’ scored his second goal with 27 seconds remaining, but it was too little too late.